WASHINGTON — The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence sued the Bush administration Tuesday in hopes of stopping a new policy that would allow people to carry concealed, loaded guns in most national parks and wildlife refuges.
"The Bush administration's last-minute gift to the gun lobby, allowing concealed semiautomatic weapons in national parks, jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law," said Paul Helmke, the group's president. "We should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry concealed firearms in our parks."
An Interior Department spokeswoman refused to comment on the lawsuit, saying the department does not discuss pending litigation.
The Brady Campaign sued the Interior Department and its secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, as well as the leaders of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service in U.S. District Court. They want a federal judge to issue an immediate injunction stopping the elimination of the 25-year-old federal rule that severely restricts loaded guns in national parks.
The Interior Department rule overturns a Reagan-era regulation that has restricted loaded guns in parks and wildlife refuges. The previous regulation required that firearms be unloaded and placed somewhere that is not easily accessible, such as in a car trunk.
But under a rule to take effect in January, visitors will be able to carry a loaded gun into a park or wildlife refuge — but only if the person has a permit for a concealed weapon and if the state where the park or refuge is located also allows concealed firearms.
The rules change would take effect before President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January. Overturning the rule would take months or even years if the Obama administration wanted to, since it would require the new administration to restart the lengthy rule-making process.
The lawsuit said members of the Brady Campaign will no longer visit national parks and refuges "out of fear for their personal safety from those who will now be permitted to carry loaded and concealed weapons in such areas."
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